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Dellection limits
lor Tilt-Up Wall
The history behind changes to Chapter 14 of ACI 318
ilt-up construction is one of the most ubiquitous
forms of commercial construction in many parts of
the country. Thanks to its efficient wall and roof systems,
more than 700 million ft
(65 million m2) of tilt-up buildings
were constructed in the U.S. in 2006.
Tilt-up's current popularity is even more remarkable
considering that it wasn't until the 1980s that building
codes began to recognize the unique design of slender
tilt-up wall panels. In fact, it wasn't until ACI 318-99
published that the design of slender wall panels was
codified on a national level. Of course, the building code
is a living document that evolves to reflect current
understanding. This article provides background information
on proposed revisions to ACI 318 slender wall provisions
that govern the design of tilt-up wall panels.
Prior to the development of slender wall code provisions,
concrete wall thickness was controlled by limiting the
height/thickness ratio. It was believed that very slender
walls could buckle prematurely or deflect excessively. In
the 1960s and 1970s, the ACI 318 height/thickness ratio
limit of 25 for bearing walls created much thicker walls
than those typically seen today. For example, a common
20 ft (6 m) high bearing wall was limited to a minimum
thickness of 10 in. (240 mm).
Engineers began experimenting with new analysis
techniques that included second-order effects, or P/1
moments, to avoid the height/thickness ratio limits
prescribed by ACI. Many engineers used a moment
magnification method in ACI 318-713 to account for
these second-order effects, but this method was not
applicable to flexural members with only a central layer
of reinforcement. Even though very thin wall panels were
being erected successfully in the 1970s, there was
growing concern over the engineering fundamentals used
to design these walls.
In response to the explosive growth of tilt-up
construction being based on potentially misapplied code
provisions, the Structural Engineers Association of
Southern California (SEAOSC) published "Recommended
Tilt-Up Wall Design,"4 also known as the Yellow Book, in
1979. This landmark publication provided detailed design
examples to appropriately consider second-order effects
in slender concrete walls. It was the Yellow Book's
recommendation to increase the height/thickness ratio
limits if the proper second-order analysis was used.
This was a huge step forward in Southern California
where the Yellow Book was quickly embraced. With
height/thickness ratio limits of 36 and 42 for unstiffened
and stiffened bearing walls, respectively, unstiffened 7 in.
(175 mm) thick walls and stiffened 6 in. (150 mm) thick
walls could now reach 21 ft (6.3 m) tall.
The Yellow Book was quickly followed by the Green
Book, titled "Test Report on Slender Walls,"5 in 1982.
Based on the work of SEAOSC and the Southern
California Chapter of ACI (SCCACI), this important
publication contained the results of 30 full-scale slender
wall tests under out-of-plane loading. Twelve of the wall
specimens were tilt-up concrete walls ranging from 4-3/4
to 9-1/2 in. (120 to 240 mm) thick, representing height/
thickness ratio of about 30, 40, 50, and 60. These test
specimens also included eccentric gravity load from
roof ledgers.
The tests were a dramatic success showing that, despite
the high height/thickness ratios, the wall panels were
Concrete l ! i t l ' l i ! 1 1 ~ l t i m ! ~ 1 1 / SEPTEMBER 2007
quite capable of undergoing severe deflections while
continuing to resist increasing lateral loads before yielding.
One specimen didn't yield until deflecting 13 in. (330 mm),
and reached its ultimate capacity after deflecting over
19 in. (480 mm). The Green Book states, "These tests proved
that thin walls of this construction can handle all specified
code loadings for vertical and lateral forces with reserve
deflection capacities far in excess of service requirements."5
The very large deflections, however, raised
serviceability concerns with the SEAOSC/SCCACI task
committee. Slender walls designed to meet strength
requirements alone and free of height/thickness ratio
limits could be overly flexible, possibly resulting in
permanent deformation. On several of the full-scale test
specimens, rebound studies were conducted. It was
found that some permanent deformation was possible in
wall panels prior to reaching theoretical yield. Quoting
the Green Book, "The tests demonstrated that there was
no validity for fixed height-to-thickness limits, but they
did reveal the need for deflection limits to control
potential residual deflection in panels after service loads
experience."5 Based on their limited rebound study and
much discussion, the SEAOSC/SCCACI task committee
proposed a deflection limit of 1/100 the height of the panel.
As shown in Fig. 1, the full-scale tests produced a load
deflection curve that was nearly bilinear with an abrupt
slope change at the cracking moment Mer' Based on the test
data, SEAOSC/SCCACI developed service level deflection
equations for the bilinear curve. These equations became the
basis for the slender wall provisions first incorporated into
the 1987 Supplement to the Uniform Building Code (UBC).6
In the subsequent 1988 UBC,7 service level deflection
was obtained using what was essentially an interpolation
along the bilinear curve
= SMJ2 for M < M
s 48EJg s er
for M >M
s er
Mer =cracking moment based on a modulus of rupture of
SE for in.-lb units (OA2E for SI units);
=nominal moment strength at section;
=the maximum moment in the wall resulting from the
application of the unfactored load combinations;
=modulus of elasticity of concrete;
= modulus of elasticity of steel;
Ie =vertical distance between supports;
= moment of inertia of the gross concrete section;
fer = nA'e (d _ c) 2 + 3 ;
A,e p" + AsI"

-_ ..... -------""
:;: 150
/ ...

-- Panel Test

100 USC
o 234 5 6 7 8 9 10
Deflection, in.
Fig. 1: Comparison of moment-deflection curve from panel test
with predicted deflection based on ACI 318-05 equations and
UBC 97 equations
n =E/(;
d =distance from extreme compression fiber to centroid
of tension reinforcement;
c =distance from extreme compression fiber to neutral axis;
b = width of compression face of member;
=factored axial load at midheight of wall, including
tributary wall weight;
As = area of tension reinforcement;
.I'y = specified yield strength of steel;
Ie = specified compressive strength of concrete;
SM 1
= __n_,_'
n 48E,(,_
One important difference between the Green Book and
the UBC was that the deflection limit at service loads was
decreased to 1/150 of the height of the panel in the UBC.
This was set by consensus opinion during the 1984 to
1986 UBC code development process, but it's not clear
what the basis of the decision was.
Another important aspect of both the Green Book and
UBC equations was defining Mer based on a modulus of
rupture Ir =sE(Ir= OA2E) This is only 2/3 of the
traditional ACI 318 value of Ir =7.sE Ur= O.62E), but
it matched the empirical test data far better. As shown in
Fig. 1, uniquely defining Mer and applying the UBC bilinear
curve equation produces a load-deflection curve that
matches the test results well. These equations continue
to be included in the 1997 UBC8 and will be used in
California through the end of 2007.
With the push to develop a uniform national building
code in the late 1990s, the UBC slender wall provisions
were incorporated into ACI 318-99 to eliminate conflict
SEPTEMBER 2007 / Concrete
with the 2000 me. Whereas the equations for determining
the design moment remained essentially the same, the
service level deflection equations were significantly
altered. These equations remain in ACI318-05,9 Section
14.8.4, and are given as
il = 5M(2
s 48EJe
M= sa
M = maximum unfactored moment due to service loads,
including Pil effects;
I =(Mer )3 I +[1 _(Mer )3]1. S. I
e M g M cr g
a a
= effective moment of inertia for computation of
deflection (also known as Branson's equation);
Mer =Sfr =S (7.5.[J:)
(in.-Ib units, .[J: in psi)
Mer =Sf
=S(0.62fl:) (SI units, .[J: in MPa)
5 = section modulus of the gross concrete section;
=maximum unfactored applied moment due to service
loads, not including Pil effects; and
= unfactored axial load at the design (midheight)
section including effects of self-weight.
The most significant difference was ACI's use of
Branson's equation for Ie to account for the effect of
cracking on the moment of inertia instead of using the
UBC bilinear load-deflection equation to determine the
deflection. In addition, the value for Mer used in Branson's
equation was set at the traditional ACI value.
There was concern within SEAOSC that the
fundamental equations developed as a result of their
landmark testing program in the early 1980s had been
significantly revised by ACI. In addition, the ACI
commentary continued to reference this experimental
research partially as the basis for these new equations.
In response, SEAOSC formed a Slender Wall Task Group
in 2005 to conduct a comprehensive review of the original
1981 test data and determine the validity of the UBC and
ACI approaches.
A fundamental question still remains: Why don't
these slender walls behave in accordance with the long
standing ACI deflection equations? Neither the Yellow
Book, the Green Book, nor the SEAOSC Slender Wall Task
Group report discuss any theory behind the lower
cracking moment Mer or the bilinear moment-deflection
"Recommended Tilt-Up Wall Design," the Yellow Book, was
published in 1979, followed by "Test Report on Slender Walls,"
the Green Book, in 1982
equation. Possible answers lie in research conducted in
Australia and Canada.
Australian research10 has identified internal concrete
shrinkage stresses as a significant factor affecting Mer
based on flat slab deflection test data. Normally, beam
specimens used to test modulus of rupture are unreinforced
and have little restraint, allowing free shrinkage. Once
reinforcement is added, shrinkage is partially restrained as
the reinforcement goes into compression, causing tensile
stresses to develop in the concrete. These tensile stresses
cause reinforced members to crack earlier than expected.
The following equation for Mer that predicts a reduced
surface stress at the initiation of cracking was adopted in
2000 by the Australian Standard for Concrete Structures
AS 3600Y In addition to shrinkage, the Australian Code's
equation for Mer also includes provision for axial load
stresses applied to the concrete member
= S(7.5.[J: - J:s + pIA) - Pe (in.-Ib units, .[J: in psi)
Mer =S(0.6.[J: - J:s + PIA) - Pe (SI units, .[J: in MPa)
cs - 1+50 p'Sh
P =A/bd
sh = final shrinkage strain of the concrete.
The term PIA accounts for the benefit of compression
stresses or the detriment of tensile stresses on Mer' In
addition, any induced stresses from the eccentricity e of
the axial force P are also considered. This makes the
AS 3600 equation far more comprehensive than Mer found
using the modulus of rupture alone, which is especially
important for lightly reinforced or centrally reinforced
members. Recent research
has concluded that 2/3 of the
Concrete / SEPTEMBER 2007
traditional ACI 318 value for Mer is simpler to use and
appropriate for computing deflections, in lieu of the
Australian Code method. This value for M matches the
1997 UBC that uses Ir =5/1: (/r= 0.42.J!:).
Once the concrete in members with a central layer
of reinforcement or light reinforcement cracks, there
is usually an abrupt decrease in stiffness. Without
consideration of the shrinkage effects, stiffness can be
significantly overestimated, resulting in an underprediction
of deflections. Using the moment-deflection curve shown
in Fig. 1 for Panel #27 as an example, the Mer produced
during the test was about 9.1 ft-kips (12.3 kNm). The Mer
predicted by the 1997 UBC, AS 3600, and ACI 318-05
equations are 7.6, 8.9, and 11.4 ft-kips (10.3, 12.1, and
15.5 kNm), respectively, with the AS 3600 equation
producing the closest estimate of Mer
has also identified significant limitations
with Branson's equation for Ie when applied to thin
concrete members with a central layer of steel. Branson's
equation, first published in 1965, was based on larger test
beams with a ratio of gross/cracked moment of inertia
(IiI) set at 2.2. When this ratio exceeds a value of about
3, (I/(r> 3), the use of Branson's equation leads to poor
predictions of deflection. Slender concrete walls are far
above this limit, with common ratios ranging from
15 to 25 for single layer reinforced walls and 6 to 12 for
double layer reinforced walls; thus deflection is under
predicted. The main culprit for this underprediction is
the lack of proper consideration of tension stiffening in
Branson's equation. Recommendations to replace
Branson's equation with a more accurate equation
incorporating tension stiffening effects have recently
been proposed.
The public comment period for AC1318-08 concluded
at the middle of last month. Unless there are changes
based on these comments, slender wall design provisions
in ACI 318-08 will more closely match the original recom
mendations of the SEAOSC/SCCACI task committee that
were incorporated into the UBC. The changes were
brought about, in part, by a SEAOSC Slender Wall Task
Group that re-evaluated the test results published in the
Green Book and conducted a study comparing AC1318-02
and the 1997 UBC slender wall design provisions. The
Task Group reported their findings in their "UBC 97
and AC1318-02 Code Comparison Summary Report"16
published in 2005.
They concluded that the 1997 UBC equations match
the test data well, but the ACI 318-02 equations (that were
unchanged in ACI 318-05) did not correlate well with
the test data and typically underestimate service load
deflections. Figure 1 provides a typical comparison of the
UBC and ACI 318-05 equations with the original test data
SEPTEMBER 2007 / Concrete
for one slender wall specimen. The other wall specimens
had similar comparisons.
The revised deflection equations are
( for Ma (2/3)Mer
= +(M
- _ ,) for M > (2/3)M
" U a cr M _(2/3)M n u
n cr
5M /2
= __cr_,_'
cr 48 I
c g
It should be noted that, although the equations for
and are identical to the equations from the 1988 UBC,
Mer in the equation for is still based on the higher
modulus of rupture for concrete traditionally used in ACI
318, but this is rectified by the use of the 2/3 factor in the
calculations for The ACI 318-08 equations also eliminate
the use of Branson's equation in favor of the bilinear
equation used in the UBC when calculating deflections for
slender wall panels.
The new equations produce a moment-deflection curve
that is identical to the UBC prediction and more closely
matches the data. As Tables 1 and 2 illustrate, the new
equations provide conservative results when compared
with data from the 12 tilt-up wall panel tests.
Further comparing the test data in Table 1, the equation
for Mer currently in ACI 318-05 overestimates the wall's
cracking moment by 26% on average. Because of the
drastic change in the bilinear load-deflection curve at
Mer' this overestimation results in a significantly lower
calculated panel deflection. In contrast, the UBC and
proposed ACI 318-08 revisions conservatively underestimate
Mer by 16% on average.
Table 2 compares the load-deflection accuracy of the
two methods with the 12 tilt-up wall panel tests. The
moments are tabulated for a deflection of 1/150 of the
height of the panel. The inaccuracies of Mer and Branson's
Ie for these thin panels combine to cause the ACI 318-05
results to significantly overestimate the corresponding
moments. The ACI 318-05 approach overestimated the
moments by 77% on average. By comparison, the UBC and
proposed ACI 318-08 revisions consistently provided a
close approximation that was 13% lower, on average,
than the observed moment at a deflection of 1/150 of the
height of the panel.
Clearly, slender wall design has come a long way since
the early days of height/thickness ratios. The ability to design
Thickness, M"t observed, M,,*UBC, M,,* ACI 318-05,
Panel No.' in. (mm) ft-kips (kNm) ft-kips (kNm) ft-kips (kNm)
19 96 (244) 21.9 (297) 195 (26-4) 29. 2 (39. 6)
94 (239) 22.3 (30.2) 187 (25-4) 28.0 (38)
21 9.5 (241) 21.8 (29.6) 19.1 (259) 28.6 (38.8)
22 7-4 (188) 12.8 (17.4) 11.6 (15.7) 173 (23.5)
23 7.3 (185) 129 (17.5) 11.4 (155) 17.1 (23. 2)
24 7-4 (188) 15.0 (20.3) 11.5 (15. 6) 17-2 (23.3)
25 6.1 (155) 10-4 (14.1) 7.9 (10.7) 11.9 (16.1)
26 59 (150) 10.3 (14.0) 73 (99)
11.0 (14.9)
27 6.0 (152) 9. 1 (12.3) 7. 6 (10.3) 11.4 (15.5)
28 4.8 (122) 6.8 (9.2) 4.9 (6.6) 7.4 (10.0)
29 4.8 (122) 5. 2 (7. 1) 48 (6.5) 7-2 (98)
30 4.9 (124) 5. 2 (7. 1) 5. 1 (69) 76 (10.3)
'Panel numbers correspond to full scale testing program by SEAOSC/SCCACl.
All panels are 24 ft (7.3 m) tall, 4 ft (1.2 m)
wide, and reinforced with four No.4 (No. 13) bars.
tCracking moment estimated from load-deflection test data.
lCracking moment calculated using actual section and material properties measured for each specimen. S
r/ observed, MLlHo* UBC,
*AC I 318-05, ACI
Panel No.' ft-kips (kNm) ft-kips (kNm) difference, % ft-kips (kNm) difference, %
19 233 (3 1.6) 20.6 (27.9) -12 50.8 (68.9) 118
20 235 (31.9) 20.1 (27.3) -14 48.7 (66.0) 107
21 24. 1 (32.7) 203 (27.5) -16 497 (67-4)
22 14.6 (19. 8) 13.9 (18.8) -5 287 (38.9) 97
23 147 (199) 12.3 (16.7) -16 276 (37.4) 88
24 17.4 (23. 6) 15.2 (20.6) -13 289 (39.2) 66
25 12.8 (17-4) 10.5 (14. 2) -18 18.9 (25.6) 48
26 11.9 (16.1) 99 (13.4) -17 17-2 (23.3)
27 10.8 (14.6) 94 (12.7) -13 17.8 (24.1) 65
28 73 (9.9)
6.0 (8.1) -18 10.8 (14.6) 48
29 69 (9-4) 6.2 (8.4) -10 107 (14.5) 55
30 6.3 (8.5) 6.1 (8.3) -3 11.1 (15.0) 76
- - -13 -
'Panel numbers correspond to full scale testing program by SEAOSC/SCCACI.' All panels are 24 ft (7.3 m) tall, 4 ft (1.2 m) wide,
and reinforced with four No.4 (No. 13) bars.
'Moment at L'. = 11150 of the height of the panel from load-deflection test data.
lMoment at L'. = 11150 of the height of the panel calculated using actual section and material properties measured for each specimen.'
Concrete / SEPTEMBER 2007
efficient concrete wall systems with greater predictability
has helped the industry, but there are issues that remain
unresolved and additional research is needed.
One area that needs clarification is determining what
constitutes service load levels for deflections under seismic
loads. This issue will be discussed in an upcoming article.
1. Personal correspondence with James R Baty II, Technical
Director of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, July 13, 2007.
2. ACI Committee 318, "Building Code Requirements for Structural
Concrete (ACI 318-99) and Commentary (ACI 318R-99)," American
Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI, 1999,391 pp.
3. ACI Committee 318, "Building Code Requirements for Reinforced
Concrete (ACI 318-71)," American Concrete Institute, Farmington
Hills, MI, 1971, 78 pp.
4. "Recommended Tilt-Up Wall Design," Structural Engineers
Association of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, June 1979, 18 pp.
5. ACISEASC Task Committee on Slender Walls, "Test Report on
Slender Walls," ACI Southern California Chapter and Structural
Engineers Association of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, Sept.
1982, 129 pp.
6. "1987 Supplement to the Uniform Building Code," International
Conference of Building Officials, Whittier, CA, 1987.
7. "Uniform Building Code 1988," International Conference of
Building Officials, Whittier, CA, 1988,926 pp.
8. "Uniform Building Code 1997, Volume 2-Structural Engineering
Design Provisions," International Conference of Building Officials,
Whittier, CA, 1997,492 pp.
9. ACI Committee 318, "Building Code Requirements for Structural
Concrete (ACI318-05) and Commentary (ACI318R-05)," American
Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, Ml, 2005, 430 pp.
10. Gilbert, RI., "Deflection Calculation for Reinforced Concrete
Structures-Why We Sometimes Get It Wrong," ACI Structural
Journal, V. 96, No.6, Nov.-Dec. 1999, pp. 1027-1033.
11. AS 3600-2001, "Concrete Structures," Standards Australia
Limited, June 2001, 165 pp.
12. Scanlon, A., and Bischoff, P.H., "Shrinkage Restraint and
Loading History Effects on Deflections of Flexural Members," ACI
Structural Journal. (accepted for publication)
13. Bischoff, P.H., and Scanlon, A., "Effective Moment of Inertia
for Calculating Deflections of Concrete Members Containing Steel
Reinforcement and Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Reinforcement," ACI
Structural Journal, V. 104, No.1, Jan.-Feb. 2007, pp. 68-75.
14. Gilbert, RI., "Tension Stiffening in Lightly Reinforced
Concrete Slabs," Journal of Structural Engineering, V. 133, No.6, June
2007, pp. 899-903.
15. ACI Committee 318, "Building Code Requirements for
Structural Concrete (ACI 318-02) and Commentary (ACI 318R-02),"
American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI, 2002, 443 pp.
16. SEAOSC Slender Wall Task Group, "UBC 97 and ACI 318-02
Code Comparison-Summary Report," Structural Engineers
Association of Southern California, Whittier, CA, 2005, 47 pp.
Selected for reader interest by the editors after independent expert
evaluation and recommendation.
ACI member John Lawson is Vice President
of Kramer & Lawson, Inc., Tustin, CA, and
provides structural engineering services for
over 10 million ft' (93,000 m') of building
floor space annually. He received a
master's degree in structural engineering
from Stanford University and graduated
summa cum laude in architectural engineering
from California Polytechnic State University,
San Luis Obispo. He is a member of ACI Committees 360, Design
of Slabs on Ground, and 551, Tilt-Up Concrete Construction.
Lawson is the recipient of the 2006 Engineering Achievement
Award from the Tilt-Up Concrete Association.
SEPTEMBER 2007 / Concrete inilmilaiimial